Hundreds of thousands of feminists marched for equality over the weekend, but not all of them fit the mold of a what it means to be a liberal feminist.
Some feminists identify more closely with an ideology that made a comeback during the 2016 election season with commentary from Republicans like Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and other feminists who view social problems through a right-winged lens — conservative feminism.
Conservative feminism is a belief system that takes the traditional definition of feminism and aligns it with conservative ideals.
“It is believing in the Constitution’s wording of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and making sure that every American can pursue the American dream in a free market economy,” said Sara Andreas, a Colorado GOP Field Organizer and Colorado State University senior political science major.
Andreas spent the last election season working to elect Donald Trump at the Larimer County campaign office in Loveland.
Conservative feminism began in the early 1900s when conservatives began participating in the first wave of feminism. Andreas said that the ideology has evolved with the times but has remained true to fundamental conservative beliefs.
“Throughout the decades, we’ve seen changes in our nation, we’ve gone to war, we’ve come back from war, we’ve written new legislation that changes the social and cultural parameters of what it means to be an American, and with that the ideas of feminism have changed,” Andreas said. “Wherever our culture goes, that is where feminism goes, but conservative feminism has always been closely aligned with conservative and libertarian values.”
Although conservative feminism is not a new concept, many people are not familiar with its ideologies and mistakenly assume that liberal feminism represents all feminists. Andreas broke down some key social issues and detailed how they would be viewed from a conservative feminist viewpoint.
Andreas said conservative feminism and liberal feminism most drastically differ on the issue of abortion.
“When I say I believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I believe that every individual, born and unborn, has the right to life without restriction,” Andreas said. “I believe that just like any other demographic group, the unborn is guaranteed the same civil rights that each living American is granted.”
Liberal feminism and conservative feminism’s differing opinions about abortion was a point of controversy this weekend when New Wave Feminists, an anti-abortion group based in Texas, was denied participation in the Women’s March on Washington.
Although conservative feminists are against abortion, Andreas said women should have access to pregnancy prevention methods.
“Everything I believe in with conservative feminism goes back to believing in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and I believe having good access to birth control is a personal liberty that if an American chooses to use birth control or other methods of contraception they should have access to that.”
Based on the conservative principle of limiting the government, Andreas views family leave, which is paid maternity leave for both men and women, as a social problem that should be determined by the private sector.
“A woman who has given birth needs to stay home from work with that child during the first beginning months of their life because of the physical process they just went through, but family maternity leave should be left to the private sector,” Andreas said. “I don’t believe the government has any right to make the determination whether a private business should grant that family leave or not.”
Andreas said conservative feminism strongly endorses the First Amendment but differs from some traditional feminists on the idea of “safe spaces,” which she defines as a place where people can discuss their ideas in safe environment.
“Our nation has not made progress by feeling safe all the time,” Andreas said. “New ideas make us uncomfortable. As a conservative woman on a college campus, I would like full access to my First Amendment rights to bring forth new ideas that may challenge some individuals’ opinions.”
Andreas said conservative feminists support the Second Amendment because it gives women the ability to protect themselves.
“I am a woman who is a survivor of sexual assault, and it’s something that has been a huge driving factor in my pursuit to spread the message of conservative feminism,” Andreas said. “Being able to carry a weapon to protect myself against a future attacker is entirely empowering, and it gives me peace of mind and lets me pursue my dreams in college and stay in school when there are times when I felt like maybe campus was too unsafe.”
Andreas said conservative feminism supports LGBT rights because the ideology supports constitutional rights for all people.
“This may differ from a traditional conservative view, but this is where we are headed,” Andreas said. “Conservative feminism is believing in the Bill of Rights regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s not my business what someone is doing in their bedroom, so why should the government have any business in that either?”
Andreas said conservative feminism supports women in the workplace and works to advance women’s place in the business world by limiting government restrictions.
“As feminists, we are always talking about breaking the glass ceiling, and how I see the glass ceiling truly being broken in our time period is by removing restrictions and government regulations on small businesses and decreasing cost of taxes and the general cost of owning businesses to encourage more female entrepreneurship,” Andreas said.
The Wage Gap
Andreas said conservative feminism acknowledges the wage gap but believes women should be responsible for bridging it.
“We know that we are still not in wage terms equal to men, but when I look at that it motivates me to grow my personal wealth more to reap the benefits of the free market and to pursue entrepreneurship and opportunities that will help me climb the ladder in some companies,” Andreas said. “It takes every woman going out and saying ‘I’m going to be CEO of this company by the time I’m 40,’ or ‘I’m going to start my own company.’ It takes determination to equal the pay gap.”
Andreas said women should focus on taking action by themselves because the ideology is against government interference in the private sector.
“I don’t believe that the government should have any involvement in the private sector with regard to wage or affirmative action type things,” Andreas said. “It (the wage gap) is a systematic disadvantage, but it’s not one that the government can solve. The only ones who can solve this are women in the workforce by becoming more educated to be able to acquire a higher skilled job.”
For the next four years, conservative feminists, like President Trump’s pick for United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and other feminists who will be working to further women’s rights from a conservative view point, will be making choices for our country and leading the conservative feminist movement from their positions in our new government. Andreas believes that will move our nation forward.
“Big government hurts women in a variety of different ways,” Andreas said. “A big and boisterous government that is going to have more involvement in our life limits every American regardless of gender. If we have less government involvement in our life, we have more room and space to achieve prosperity and the American dream.”